The Bible in a Year – 14 October

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

14 October. 1 Corinthians chapters 9-11

In these chapters, Paul turns to the practicalities of Christian living. The questions he discusses are all still relevant today, though we may come up with different answers as a result of differences in culture.   For instance, Paul explains at length why women should wear veils in church (not “hats” as some people think); it derives from an understanding of women as being subservient to men, and of their long hair which is their ‘glory’ being a temptation to men to distract them from holy thoughts.  Most human societies have moved on from that kind of thinking about women, and if a man finds a woman in church attractive, that’s his issue to deal with, not her fault.

There are, of course, some Christians who will say that if we believe the Bible to consist of writings inspired by God, we should take it all literally, but that leads to all kinds of complications and paradoxes, simply because it was written over a period of about 1000 years (and including much earlier ideas in some parts) by people whose culture and philosophy varied from Persian to Greek, as well as Jewish.

God does want us to live in a way that honours him and each other; but in Christ he put to an end the idea that there is one unchanging set of moral and religious rules for all time.  Paul concedes this with his challenge to the Corinthians: “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled?”(11:13).  He hopes, of course, that they will say “no”; but we are free to differ.

Paul himself has given us in the previous chapter the overarching principle to guide our Christian ethics: “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others” (10:23-24).  What that means in practice will depend on when and where we live, and the culture of our neighbours.